Define Your Business Challenge

Welcome to module 1 of the Team-Challenge Fit course. 

It's important to realize that similar business challenges take on a completely different spin depending on the context. For example, the challenge of getting a product to market is tackled differently depending on the type of company. 

There are typically three layers to your business challenge:

  • Ambition: describes what it is that you are trying to accomplish;
  • Strategy: summarizes how you plan to succeed;
  • Roadmap: shows the steps you need to reach your goal.

Now, these layers might all be defined by a single person or many different ones. It all depends on whether you plan to build a startup team, an innovation team within a corporate, or anything in-between. In all cases, the goal should be the same: to clarify the job the team needs to get done.

I often hear that you have to get lucky to find the right people to build the team you need to succeed. I do agree with them. There’s always a degree of luck in everything we do. But I’m also one of those who believe that you can work to improve your ‘luck’.

The only way to achieve great feats in life is with hard work. It starts with making time to clarify what you want to achieve. From there on, you can make decisions that will help you build the team you need to succeed.

Your first task as a leader is to lead with clarity. Everyone should be able to turn to you in the good times or hard times for two things:

  1. Direction: what you are trying to achieve;
  2. Planning: how you are going to go about it.

Two basic things that teams should have in place. Unfortunately, my experience says that most team failures start here, with a leader’s struggle to set a course of action for the team to follow.

In this module, you’re going to clarify your business challenge by breaking it down into a strategic roadmap.

You’ll do that in three steps:

  1. Summarize your strategy 
  2. Create a roadmap
  3. Plan your milestones

Summarize your strategy

Every team exists for a reason, and it’s up to you as the leader to make sure that the reason is clear. Why is the team going to work together?

There can be a million different reasons why the team is going to work together. You might want to right a wrong, improve business results, or disrupt your industry. Regardless of the reasons, you need to be able to phrase it in a way that leaves no one indifferent. The best way to do this is to phrase your reason in the form of a goal.

A goal is a short statement of what you aspire to achieve as a team. The goal should:

  • Leave no room for misinterpretation to avoid confusion
  • Seem within grasp to make your team believe it’s possible
  • Be ambitious to motivate your team to work together

A quick side note. Your purpose should, ideally, align with the vision of the company for which you work. If you are a startup founder watching this, you should probably get your team brand fundamentals in place before defining your goals. Knowing your purpose and the mission you’re on will help you set goals that get you moving in the right direction.

That said, here are some examples of goals I’ve seen come by:

  • To land the first monkey on Mars
  • To make jackfruit the #1 meat alternative in the world
  • To make the best bamboo based sports apparel

Important to note that the goal should be at a high enough level that everyone in the team needs to play a role to achieve it. Regardless of whether it’s Marketing, Sales, Product Development, Operations, HR, or IT. 

Your challenge as a leader is to define a challenge that gives your team the clarity and focus they need to move in the same direction.

Create a strategy roadmap

Ok, so you now have an ambitious goal that your team is excited to reach. I would say you're halfway to defining your challenge. The other half is to make a plan of the steps you need to achieve your goal. Or what the business world knows as a Strategic Roadmap. 

The Roadmap part of the plan is straightforward. Let me break it down for you. 

A roadmap consists of three elements: your journey, your needs, and your timeline:

  • Your journey is as simple as stating the last big goal you accomplished, your starting point, and the big goal you want to achieve, your destination. 
  • Your needs are a list of things that you must have in place to succeed. 
  • Your timeline is the amount of time you have to reach your goal, broken down into smaller intervals in which you plan your actions.

Let me draw it out for you using the example of the monkey. 

  • Journey: we got a man to the moon. Now we want to land the first monkey on Mars.
  • Needs: we are going to need a rocket, the right technology, and trained monkeys. 
  • Timeline: we want to land the monkey on Mars within three months.

That's your roadmap. It's that simple.

Now, three months might be a bit over-ambitious timeline to land a monkey on Mars, but that is where the Strategic part of a Strategic Roadmap comes in. You need to map out the moves you need to make to reach your goal and decide whether they are feasible in the given time frame. But this is for later. 

First, make sure you can answer the four guiding questions to create your roadmap:

  1. What is your goal?
  2. Where are you right now?
  3. What do you need to reach your goal?
  4. What is a realistic timeline to reach your goal?

Plan your Milestones

Now that you have your roadmap, it’s time to think what steps you need to take to reach your goal.

For each of the needs you identified when making your roadmap, think of what you need to do to get them in place. Which of those can be done in parallel? And, which of them can only start after one of the other actions is complete? 

It’s like a puzzle. You want to keep it as simple as possible for your teams sake. The simpler you describe your steps the more likely your team be able to follow. 

It helps to write your milestones as actions that result in concrete deliverables. 

If we take the case of landing the first monkey on Mars. One of your needs would be to train the monkeys! So the milestones could look something like this:

  1. Monkeys recruited
  2. Manuals written
  3. Simulator training updated
  4. Monkey fully  trained

Now this is a possible order of things, but of course you might think it’s smarter to not recruit the monkeys until all the training material is complete. It’s all going to depend on variables like budget, team availability, or resources that only might be available at a specific moment in your timeline. 

It is important that the milestones on the roadmap are absolutely necessary to reach the goal. If they aren’t, they should be left out to avoid distraction. The more puzzle pieces you add to the mix the harder it is to follow. 

Once you have all your milestones, it’s wise to challenge yourself on the timeline. Making them too unrealistic means you won’t reach milestones, you will keep pushing them back in time, and at some point your team will not take the roadmap seriously. Make them too easy and you’re team will not feel the pressure and gradually loose motivation. 

It takes some practice. But when you get the hang of it, you’ll discover that creating a strategic roadmap will help you clarify your business challenge. Which in turn will make it that much easier to design your team. It will be a map to help focus your efforts, guide your decision making, and, ultimately, reach your goal.

This is the first of a three course series

A series of online courses to help innovators design strong teams able to tackle their business challenge.

Team-Challenge Fit

Define your dot on the horizon and clarify the team roles you'll need to get there.

SIgn up

Team Branding

Create a code your team can follow to nurture a strong team culture.

Coming 2022

Team Performance

Choose your team tactics and track progress to improve results.

Coming 2022

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